How to Get into Harvard Law School
- Harvard Law School Program Overview
- About Harvard Law School
- What Does Harvard Law School Offer?
- Class of 2025 Acceptance Rate and Statistics
- Class of 2021 Post-Graduation Statistics
- Harvard Law Application Requirements
- Harvard Law School Application Details
- Harvard Law School FAQs
Harvard Law School Program Overview
Harvard Law School has quite the national reputation. This is partly because the school has spawned a large number of presidents, Supreme Court justices, and big law partners, and partly due to the popularity of Legally Blonde. But in all seriousness, Harvard Law’s history, abundance of resources, and worldwide recognition make it the dream school of many applicants.
For aspiring JDs, getting in might seem nearly impossible—and there is no question that gaining admission to Harvard Law is difficult. However, most law schools are competitive. Approximately 600 people get into Harvard Law each year—why not you?
Given the competitive application process, having strong test scores and grades is essential. In addition, learning the stats of recent Harvard Law classes and other key aspects that the school values can make all the difference in your application.
In this blog post, we at Stratus walk you through what you need to know to increase your chances of getting into Harvard Law.
About Harvard Law School
History and ranking
Harvard Law is part of Harvard University. Although the university has existed since 1636, the law school did not form until 1817. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, right outside of Boston, Harvard Law ranks fourth (tied with Columbia Law School) in U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 Best Law Schools list.
Acceptance rate and class size
Harvard Law has an acceptance rate of about 7%, with roughly 2,000 students enrolled. Each class consists of about 600 students. The first-year class is broken up into seven sections, each with 80 students. Harvard Law’s large class size creates a robust network of current students and alumni.
In 2021, the school’s bar passage rate was 99%. About 87% of its graduates accepted jobs that require JDs, and only around 2% of graduates were seeking a job and unable to find one. The school places dozens of students in judicial clerkships each year and has sent the most alumni of any law school to clerk for the Supreme Court.
More than 100 faculty members teach at Harvard Law. The school’s faculty has included several prominent professors, such as Annette Gordon Reed, a historian whose research on legal history was groundbreaking. Associate Justice Elena Kagan also taught at the school before she joined the Supreme Court. She was the dean of the law school and left to become solicitor general of the United States.
Among its alumni, Harvard Law counts two US presidents, including Barack Obama; close to 20 Supreme Court justices, such as Louis Brandeis; dozens of members of Congress, including Ted Cruz and Chuck Schumer; and federal judges, such as Andy Oldham and Patricia Millett—along with many legal scholars and celebrities, including author Susan Cain and novelist Mohsin Hamid.
What Does Harvard Law School Offer?
Harvard Law’s first-year curriculum is the standard for any law school. Students must take courses in legal writing, tort law, contract law, constitutional law, civil procedure, property law, and criminal law. The “Legislation and Regulation” course, which covers the laws around interpreting legislation as well as how administrative law works, is also required. Students will take these eight classes with the same students from their section. Like other law schools, Harvard Law requires students to take “Legal Profession,” which, according to the school’s website, examines “the rules and standards of professional responsibility and legal ethics.” But unlike other schools, Harvard Law students must take an international law course before they graduate.
Harvard Law offers an array of courses with varying class sizes. Some have more than 100 students, while others have fewer than 20. The school’s courses cover conventional areas such as bankruptcy, corporations, and family law, but also more specialized areas including disability law and national security law. Some Harvard Law courses culminate in a typical end-of-semester exam that determines the student’s entire grade, while others are seminars whose grades are determined by an assigned paper.
Harvard Law requires students to write one large paper or several smaller ones during their time at the school. Students who want to write more can submit additional independent papers for a class credit and a grade.
Harvard Law has 23 in-house clinics on campus and typically makes more than 1,000 clinic placements each year, and 88% of the 2021 graduating class participated in clinics. In-house clinics cover popular areas such as criminal law and housing law, but there are also more niche clinics such as animal law. Additionally, the law school offers 13 externship clinics where students can work in legal offices, such as a US Attorney’s office or a public defender’s office. Students can also participate in independent clinics, where they choose a legal position off campus to work as an intern. Many students use this as an opportunity to work abroad.
Harvard Law’s more than 100 student clubs, such as the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society, cover many different legal interests and social causes. The clubs organize lectures, discussions, social mixers, and intramural sports games for students to attend, providing them with opportunities to further explore their legal interests and connect with their classmates.
Student practice organizations
Eleven student practice organizations are active at Harvard Law. One notable group is Harvard Defenders, in which students provide free criminal legal defense to low-income people. These groups function like clinics but offer students the opportunity to gain legal experience without being graded; therefore, their requirements are less strenuous than those of clinics.
Harvard Law also has roughly 30 centers on campus that focus on different academic areas, such as the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Law & Policy Program. Centers facilitate academic discussions and conduct research, and students often have the opportunity to assist these centers through their research and writing.
More than a dozen journals are published by Harvard Law. The Harvard Law Review is the most prominent and the most competitive to join, but most of the school’s other legal journals are open to any student. Participating in these journals offers students the opportunity to publish their writing, review academic papers, and attend related symposiums and conferences.
Class of 2025 Acceptance Rate and Statistics
Harvard Law received 8,225 applications for its Class of 2025 and extended 822 offers of admission, which equates to a 10% admission rate.
Of the 559 students in its Class of 2025,
- 54% are women.
- 53% are students of color.
- 17% are either first-generation college students or from low-income families.
- 17% identify as LGBTQ+.
- 13% were STEM majors.
- 9% came from abroad.
- 78% took at least one year off in between college and law school, while 65% took at least two years off, and 21% took at least four years off.
In terms of statistics,
- For the LSAT, the 25th percentile was 170, the 50th percentile was 174, and the 75th percentile was 176.
- For the GRE Verbal component, the 25th percentile was 164, the 50th percentile was 168, and the 75th percentile was 169.
- For the GRE Quantitative component, the 25th percentile was 164, the 50th percentile was 167, and the 75th percentile was 168.
- For the GRE Analytical Writing component, the 25th percentile was 5.0, the 50th percentile was 5.0, and the 75th percentile was 5.5.
- For undergraduate GPA, the 25th percentile was 3.82, the 50th percentile was 3.92, and the 75th percentile was 3.99.
Students in the Harvard Law Class of 2025 came from 174 different universities in 49 different US states, DC, and Puerto Rico; represent 18 countries; and speak 58 languages.
Class of 2021 Post-Graduation Statistics
According to Harvard Law’s employment report for the Class of 2021, of the 594 graduates,
- 515 accepted jobs that required passing the state bar.
- 14 were working in jobs where having a JD is helpful.
- 15 were working in “professional” positions.
- 30 accepted positions funded by a school.
- Seven were unemployed but were not seeking a job.
- Three were unemployed but were seeking a job.
- Nine had enrolled in other graduate programs.
Harvard Law did not know the employment status of one graduate.
Graduates took jobs in the following industries/roles:
- Law firms: 345
- Business: 21
- Government: 21
- Public interest organizations: 69
- Judicial clerkships: 112
Learn how Stratus’ team approach can get you into Harvard Law. Start with a FREE consultation with an admissions specialist today!
Harvard Law Application Requirements
- Online application
- Application fee or fee waiver
- LSAT or GRE
- Undergraduate transcript/GPA
- LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS) report
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Optional diversity statement
- No work experience requirement
Harvard Law School Application Details
Harvard Law’s application period typically opens in late September, with interviews beginning in early November. The school follows a rolling admissions process and traditionally accepts applications until the end of February, with three monthly rounds of acceptances (in January, February, and March). Students usually must accept admission by May.
As noted above, Harvard Law accepts both the LSAT and the GRE. You should target a score of 174 on the LSAT, or a 168 on the Verbal portion of the GRE and a 167 on the Quantitative portion of the GRE to be in the school’s 50th percentile range.
Harvard Law requires a minimum of two and a maximum of three letters of recommendation. At least one should be from an academic source—a college professor in whose courses you excelled, for example. You should also consider asking former bosses to write a recommendation letter for you. Provide your recommenders with clear instructions and early deadlines, and share some bullet points to help them remember your accomplishments.
Make sure you customize your resume for your Harvard Law application. Use professional and consistent fonts, avoid small page margins, and do not exceed one page. As far as content, avoid jargon so the admissions committee can easily understand your accomplishments, and be sure to balance your work experience with law school–related skills. Your resume should include sections on your education, experience, and personal information.
Applicants must submit one essay consisting of up to two pages, double spaced, with one-inch margins and at least an 11-point font size. The school only provides general guidance for the essay, saying applicants should explain what kind of law student and lawyer they would be. If applying to Harvard Law, you should use this opportunity to write about your accomplishments related to why you want to be a lawyer as well as your aspirations for your legal career. Make sure to research Harvard Law to find out which of the school’s offerings specifically connect to your legal goals so you can mention them in your statement.
An optional essay gives you the opportunity to explain how you would contribute to the diversity of Harvard Law’s community. Keep in mind that the school does not define “diversity.” This essay should be one page long, with at least an 11-point font size, and double spaced.
Harvard Law School FAQs
What if I attended a low-ranked undergraduate institution?
As long as your college is accredited, its undergraduate ranking does not matter; you just need to make sure you have a strong GPA and test scores.
If I take time off between college and law school to work, do I need to do legal work?
No. As long as you do something productive with your time off, such as working or completing an internship, your employment history will not hurt you and could be beneficial.
Is Harvard Law looking for applicants with a particular undergraduate major?
No. The school accepts students from a variety of academic backgrounds.
I have a low GPA but a difficult major. Will Harvard Law overlook that?
Generally, no. Law schools usually are only interested in your overall undergraduate GPA. They will allow some consideration for applicants with particularly difficult majors, such as a STEM major, but this will not excuse a low GPA.
Does it matter when I apply?
Given that Harvard Law follows a rolling admissions process, if your application materials are ready to go at the beginning of the cycle, it probably helps your chances a little to apply then. If not, you are better off not rushing your application. If you think you can improve your LSAT/GRE score by taking it one or two more times in the fall, remember that substantially increasing your score will improve your chances much more than applying a few weeks earlier.
Do I need to take time off between college and law school to work in order to gain a competitive edge?
Although work experience can boost an application, plenty of students get into Harvard Law each year without any. Even if successful applicants did have work experience, that might not be what made the difference for them given the many variables involved in the admissions decision.
Are you considering applying to Harvard Law? Whether you are looking for comprehensive law school admissions consulting, hourly help, or perhaps interview prep, we at Stratus Admissions Counseling can help you! Sign up for a free consultation today!